The Cross: What Do You See?

9.14.18 Fri. wk. 23 – O. T.  (II)
Feast: Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Numbers 21: 4b – 9
Philippians 2: 6 – 11
Gospel  John 3: 13 – 17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.       The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                 The Cross: What Do You See?

It is the football season.  And inevitably we’re going to see someone, as we watch the games, holding up the sign behind the goal posts that says: “John 3:16”.  It seems to be a normal thing we see, now.  It is the middle part of today’s reading: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that they who believe might not perish, but might have eternal life.”

When we think of the sacrifice of †Jesus on the cross (Fr. Mike turns to look directly at the crucifix hanging on the wall behind the altar.) it should fill us with joy and gratitude and it likely does.  Yet we all know that life is difficult and so we wonder – ‘what happened’? That was supposed to bring me life and joy’ – what has happened?   Life can be so difficult and so miserable at times.  Too often we forget the other words from Sacred Scripture that must be part of what John wrote in his Gospel.  Words that St. Paul wrote: “We make up in our own sufferings what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Co.1:24)

You might think: ‘Now wait a minute – this isn’t the cruise I signed up for. I thought that once I was a believer – everything was going to be fine – not that I would have to suffer more.  I thought †Jesus did all that for me’.

As we look at Christ on the cross what is it that we see?  We see pure love.  We see a sacrificial love.  God so loved us – He wanted us to become like Him – so He became ‘one’ like us.  We are called to be ‘holy’ as ‘God is Holy’.  Holiness is the perfection of love – unselfish love – sacrificial love – selfless love.  It is to be united to the person of Christ – not only the ‘Resurrected Christ’ – but also the ‘Crucified Christ’.  As we grow in the spiritual life at the various stages of what many have termed: ‘Mystical Marriage’, (particularly Teresa of Avila) we realize very quickly that as we are striving for ‘Union with Christ’; we are becoming more and more conformed to the ‘Crucified Christ’ – not the ‘Resurrected Christ’.  This is why so many people – as they advance in the spiritual life – stop at a certain point – because it is too much; because it does demand crucifixion; that’s who we are imitating.  St. Paul would finally declare toward the end of his life: “I have been crucified with Christ – it is no longer I – but Christ †Jesus who lives in me”. (Gal.2:20)  He had totally identified with Christ – but it came through the ‘Crucified Christ’.

When we look at †Jesus on the cross what do we see?  “There is no greater love than this – than to lay down one’s life for another”. (John 15:13)  I also see heroes who serve our country in our military and their heroic families.  I see police and firefighters who ran into buildings on 9-11, and gave their lives for people they didn’t even know.

When we look at †Jesus lifted up – what do we see?  I see Mother Teresa, who lived her life caring for the most abandoned in the world.  She saw †Jesus in every sick and dying person that she met.

When we look at †Jesus lifted up on the cross – what do we see?  I see someone who suffered with a terrible – painful form of cancer.  Their only desire was the privilege to offer their sufferings for the spiritual renewal of priests.

When we look at †Jesus lifted up – what do we see?  I saw a woman in our community who selflessly cared for an ailing parent – put her own life on hold – without fanfare – with only love and compassion in her heart.

When we look at †Jesus lifted up – what do we see?  I see a group of women I met with last night – who patiently care for their children with special needs.   It’s not the family they dreamed of on their wedding day – but they carry this cross lovingly and joyfully for their children.

There are others  – and certainly you know some of them.  They live to complete the words of that sign that we see in the end zone at football games.

When we look at †Jesus lifted up – what do they see?  They don’t see themselves – that’s for sure – because they are far too humble for that – but they see the love of †Jesus and they are grateful for His love and grace in their life.

In reality, I see †Jesus in them, because of how Saint Paul described †Jesus when he said: “†Jesus emptied Himself and humbled Himself”. (Phil.2:6ff) That’s how I see these people.  They do not see the cross as an obstacle in life – but they see it as ‘the way to live’.   “God so loved the world that He gave us people like His Son – so that others may have life through their sacrifices”.

Can we be one of these – who live in the image of Christ –

who carry courageously and victoriously – the cross of †Jesus Christ?

    In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.